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This site gives you information NOT medical advice. You should consult your medical practitioner if you have any unexplained symptoms of illness or concerns about treatment. Do not stop a prescribed conventional treatment without consulting a doctor. Tell all the practitioners you're working with, conventional or complementary, about any medicines, remedies, herbs or supplements you are taking or considering using.


What do we mean by acute low back pain?

The low back is the part between the bottom of your ribs and the crease of your buttocks. Every year in the UK, one adult in three will get back pain and about 20% of them will see their GP about it. This makes low back pain the second most common reason for seeing a GP; the commonest being digestive problems.

What causes the pain?

Most back pain is due to tension, soreness and stiffness in muscles that have been overused or overstretched. Nineteen times out of twenty, no particular cause (such as a fracture, or arthritis or a disc problem) can be found. This is why it's often called 'non-specific low back pain'. Typically, it feels worse if you use your back, and eases off when you are lying down flat. Generally, if you haven't moved for a while, and the muscles tense up, it will feel worse as you start to move again, or perhaps when you roll over in bed. Non-specific low back pain is sometimes called 'simple mechanical back pain' because the pain is linked to movement and tension, and because it comes from the back muscles and stiff joints.

Usually, even very painful, acute ('acute' means it began recently) low back pain eases off after a few days. Even though the pain may be bad at first, 90% of people improve a lot or recover completely within six weeks, and often much sooner. But some people find that the pain keeps coming back. In fact, once you have had low back pain, you are more likely to get it again. But if this happens to you, you can do a lot to speed up your recovery and prevent it coming back at some point. In a few cases, it can become a persistent, ongoing problem.

Research has shown that keeping active, and regular walking, running or swimming, will help prevent this. It obviously helps to be 'back aware': for instance, not to twist or bend sideways when you're trying to lift things; and to remember to use the power of your knees rather than your back when you are picking up something heavy.

What other information might be helpful?

  • Pain is stressful, and the longer you've had it the more likely it is to be making you tense. Tension can make pain worse.
  • If you're feeling stressed or anxious (jumpy or having worrying thoughts that keep you awake) you might find our information leaflet on STRESS AND ANXIETY helpful.
  • If you're feeling low or depressed, you might find the information leaflet on LOW MOOD AND DEPRESSION helpful. Depression can cause back pain. If your low mood continues through the day, it is best to go to your doctor.